So take heart. Despite the specters of bad-mannered athletes, overzealous fans, high-pressure collectors, burgeoning prices, commercialization, casual forgery, canned signatures and the rest, it's still possible to talk to a third baseman, ask for and receive his autograph and impress your family and friends with it. And maybe years later dig it out and admire it all over again.
Leon Uzarowski, the man who got Mantle's signature on the run, is 39 now and has switched to collecting photographs, but he looks at his treasures occasionally and remembers with warmth his autograph collecting days in Baltimore in the 1950s when he and the Orioles were young together.
"For us autograph hunters the Orioles in the '50s were world beaters," Uzarowski says. "They lost a lot, so chances were always good that the visiting team would be happy after a game and would sign easily. And the Orioles, as the home team, had to sign. I collected the signatures of Gus Triandos, Bob Nelson and Wayne Causey three or four times. They weren't particular favorites of mine, but they were available. I even got Noonie Marquis twice."
Noonie Marquis? There he is in the Baseball Encyclopedia: Roger Julian (Noonie) Marquis, a 6-foot, 190-pound lefthand-hitting outfielder. He must have been a pretty good ballplayer if he made it to the major leagues, but he was up for only one season, 1955. He got into one game with the Orioles, came to bat one time and made out. That was his entire big-league career.
"It's a lot of fun, collecting autographs," Uzarowski says. "How else would anybody ever remember Noonie Marquis?"